Watchdog to investigate judge's 'burglary takes courage' remarks

Judge Peter Bowers Judge Peter Bowers reportedly said he would not have "the nerve" to burgle a house

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A judge who described a drug-addicted serial thief as "courageous" is to be investigated by the judicial watchdog.

Judge Peter Bowers reportedly made the remark while sentencing 26-year-old Richard Rochford for burglary.

The Teesside Crown Court judge also said he thought prison did criminals "little good".

His remarks sparked criticism and Prime Minister David Cameron said burglars were "cowards" whose "hateful crime" violated victims.

Rochford, of Westbourne Grove, Redcar, admitted two burglaries and asked for one more burglary and one attempted burglary to be taken into account.

He was given a two-year supervision order with drug rehabilitation and 200 hours' unpaid work, with a one-year driving ban.

'Not bravery'

The judge reportedly told the offender on Tuesday: "It takes a huge amount of courage, as far as I can see, for somebody to burgle somebody's house. I wouldn't have the nerve."

He added that he "might get pilloried" for his decision, but claimed jail would not do much good in this case and said: "I'm going to take a chance on you."

A spokesperson for the Office for Judicial Complaints said it had "received a number of complaints in relation to comments that His Honour Judge Bowers made in relation to a case in Teesside Crown Court on 4 September 2012".

David Cameron on ITV Daybreak: "Burglars should be sent to jail"

"Those complaints will be considered under the Judicial Discipline Regulations in the usual way. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage," the spokesperson said.

Speaking to ITV's Daybreak programme, Mr Cameron said: "I haven't seen the specific case.

"Judges sometimes say things that, you have to read the full context and the rest of it.

"But I'm very clear; burglary is not bravery, burglary is cowardice, burglary is a hateful crime.

"People sometimes say it is not a violent crime but, actually, if you've been burgled, you do feel it was violent, breaking into your home.

"That's why this government is actually changing the law to toughen the rules on self-defence towards burglars."

'Too lenient'

One of Rochford's victims, Mark Clayton, of Lingdale, North Yorkshire, condemned Judge Bowers' comments.

He said: "How can a man who is burgling houses be told it takes courage and be let off? He hasn't learnt anything from his mistakes.

"What is courage? I did 22 years with Her Majesty's forces. I've done a lot of things that took immense courage.

Richard Rochford Richard Rochford will undergo a drug rehabilitation course

"The judge has been too lenient towards this guy's mental state. It's hardly fair.

"I don't know anything about the prison service but I'm sure it's all about rehabilitating people. That's why it's there."

Mr Clayton said Rochford had broken into his house in the early hours, ransacked it and taken laptops, televisions and items of sentimental value.

He added: "I thought Rochford would get some sentence. He has to learn from what he's done. He can't just be let off for the crimes he's committed."

Javed Khan, chief executive of the national charity Victim Support, said burglars should be brought to justice because of the impact of their actions on victims.

"Burglary can be a traumatic experience for victims and leave long lasting scars," he said.

"It is therefore disappointing to see it being taken lightly by anyone - not least someone whose role it is to make sure offenders are brought to justice."

A Ministry of Justice Spokeswoman said: "Sentencing is purely a matter for the courts, as only they have the full facts of a case before them."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    We need to re-think what prison is actually trying to achieve. The evidence would suggest that it does not deter (light sentences, badge of honour etc.). It certainly does not rehabilitate (look at the recidivism stats). Let's be honest, it can only serve to punish and help victims sense that justice has been done. Redirect policy accordingly please!

  • rate this

    Comment number 898.

    Respect by a judge for the courage of a criminal is plain nonsense.
    The criminals' respect for the law was the issue - and he had none.
    The question arises though as to how to develop in criminals the courage to lead a life respecting the law. The answer isn't to pamper them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 897.

    As I have said previously, many of our Judges appear totally out of touch with public opinion. The same can be said of our politicians, who also appear to inhabit a similar parallel universe. When you are wealthy and priviledged ( and I include many socialists in this category) you can distance yourself from life in the real world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 896.

    #858 "I am not trying to support the burglar here but have we thought about why the man resorted to burglary?"

    Well, presumably to feed a drug habit given he received a drug rehabilitation order. I'm mystified as to why we should feel sympathy for drug addicts. Except for a very few who've been forced to go on drugs, they're in that situation through their own stupid choices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 895.

    Just more one Judge who needs to lose his job. Prison is a holiday camp where is the punishment in it? The judicial system is no long doing its job. Criminals have more rights than people not breaking the law. You can say nothing in a murder trial and that is okay but say nothing if you car is seen speeding and it off to jail you go!

  • rate this

    Comment number 894.

    I know a few heroin addicts, all have jobs and to anyone on the street they appear to be perfectly normal. They never have to resort to robbing people to fuel their habit, they don't allow their problem to become somebody else's problem. The fact is, if you resort to thievery to fund your habit, you're a bad person, drugs don't make you bad and judges should never accept addiction as an excuse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 893.

    Why can't Judges who are obviously out of touch with the public and or reality be sacked?

  • rate this

    Comment number 892.

    I am surprised the burglar was not given compensation for the distress caused by being arrested (Prisoners released early from jail already receive compensation for the free board lost due to early release) The only losers are the victims. Perhaps another courageous burglar will target the well-off Bowers residence, to see if he gets equal leniency

  • rate this

    Comment number 891.

    Get rid of this buffoon now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 890.

    Judges are there to pass judgment (surprise surprise) and this is always going to be based on their interpretation of the law as it stands and their personal feelings. And the judiciary should be free to use that to make their own decisions.

    If we don't agree with it then too bad.. other judges might not agree either but its the luck of the draw.

  • rate this

    Comment number 889.

    The reason why we son't have the 'courage' to burgle a house is because we have a moral compass, we know it is wrong, we think about the consequences, we care about hurting others, we respect that there are rules of ownership, that people have worked hard to earn the money to buy things, we don't want to go to jail, we value our non criminal status - but apart from that.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 888.

    Perhaps it is time to change the phrase "it doesn't take the brains of an Archbishop......" and replace it with Judge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 887.

    Add up the amount of time each of us spends locking front doors, shutting windows in hot weather, looking for lost keys etc. 1 minute/day x 20 million!! Then every burglar needs to spend that amount of time in prison. Burglary is a massive crime - life would be so much better without it, so the few morons who do it need to be punished appropriately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 886.

    "Is your point that criminal can never be rehabilitated?"

    Not nec. but at what cost? For what benefit? If money is thrown at 1000 offenders for 5 to be fully 'rehabilitated'. Is this the best use of tax payers' money?

    All things are achievable if enough money is thrown at the problem. But is this the best use of limited public funds when it could be spent on schools, hospitals etc.?

  • rate this

    Comment number 885.

    Frankly...I'm sick of listening to the namby-pamby Liberal "excuse-niks" who rabbit on about deprivation, lack of opportunity, the haves and have-nots etc., like it's a reason to turn to crime. My late father and grandfather were working-class coal-miners. They lived through the hard times of the 20s and 30s. Did they turn to crime as a result of hardship? NO...they most certainly did not!

  • rate this

    Comment number 884.


    Google it, for a clever chap like you that should be easy... You didn't answer though, if the Chinese do prison better why is crime rising in China? Ill give you a clue 'fast track economy, capitalism, haves and have nots...

  • rate this

    Comment number 883.

    "The reason that prison "does little good" is because we have made them like holiday camps rather than places that people fear ever ending up"

    And the judge is powerless to do anything about it. Don't blame the judge, blame the system. He is right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 882.

    840. It's probing time!

    Surmising where the words have come from, maybe they should use a proctologist to trace the judge's brain and a neurosurgeon to put it back where it should be!

  • rate this

    Comment number 881.

    856 @ Drongo Shrike

    Possibly difficult to 'prove'...but certainly if folks here are shocked by his insensitive words and take them in that context the scum that burgle will take those same words as tacit encouragement.

    That is his blunder, apart from releasing a felon without punishment he 'inadvertently 'bigged the scum up.
    Poor words and poor judging.
    A sabbatical to consider reality methinks

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    I felt rather ill reading this judges’ comments about burglars being courageous; this judge should be removed from the bench. Lenient sentencing and lack of consequences, for criminals, has done more long-term damage to this country, and to our society, than can perhaps ever be repaired.


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